Health & Safety
Before visiting Beijing, take stock of any health concerns you have. Honestly consider your health needs and meet with your physician(s) to discuss medical issues that may require attention while abroad. Make sure your medical records and immunizations (tetanus, polio, etc.) are up to date. You should also research what type of immunizations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you may need while traveling in and around Beijing, or elsewhere in China.
Medical Needs and Precautions
- Factors such as your health and immunization history, areas you may be visiting, and planned activities will determine what type of medicine you will need. Please read Preparing for Your Trip to China by the CDC for more information.
- We also recommend reading through the American Embassy in Beijing's General Health Information and Provider Lists.
- If you are on prescription medication, you are advised to bring an adequate supply with you to last for the length of your stay abroad. You will need a physician's prescription (in generic form) for medication and medical supplies to pass through customs. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, pack a copy of your eye prescription. We recommend you bring an extra pair of contacts plus a spare pair of glasses to wear.
- Be sure to have insurance that covers medical evacuation, in case you have to be flown back to the U.S. (or other country) for medical treatment.
- There is a school hospital on the CUC campus that exchange students can go to (at their own expense).
- Please visit our Resources Page for more information about health and safety in Beijing.
Medical Insurance Requirement
Medical health insurance coverage that is applicable outside of the United States (China in particular) is required for participation in the China Exchange program. You will be required to purchase Emerson College's student health plan offered by Aetna Student Health if your current insurance does not provide adequate coverage.
Please check with your insurance agent regarding any policy questions or concerns you may have about health benefits while participating in the China Exchange program. If you believe your current insurance policy does not provide sufficient medical coverage while out of your state/geographical service area, please research a health insurance plan that does. For your current alternate health plan to be comparable to the Aetna student health plan:
The plan must provide reasonably comprehensive coverage of health services, including preventive and primary care, emergency services, hospitalization benefits, ambulatory patient services, and mental health services throughout the school year.
- The services covered under the alternate health plan must be reasonably accessible for all health services to the student in the area where the student attends school.
- A health plan through a closed network of providers and accessible only for emergency services is NOT comparable coverage.
Having a good health insurance plan is vitally important, so make certain that you and your family research this thoroughly.
View information about the Aetna Student Health Plan. Students who use the College’s health insurance plan are entitled to travel assistance services provided by On Call International. On Call International has extensive college student service experience, including medical evacuation and repatriation coverage and 24-hour medical assistance for members.
Health & Safety Tips While in Beijing
- Prepare for upper respiratory problems, eye irritation, headaches, and earaches. The pollution is most noticeable early in the morning as a heavy, grey fog. It sometimes lifts by midday, but never fully goes away.
- The air is sometimes dusty. You can taste it and feel it on your hands and in your eyes.
- If you have asthma or other respiratory ailments, it may take several days for your breathing to fully adjust to the poor air quality.
- If you need an inhaler, pack a supply for your time in Beijing and perhaps buy some face masks to wear over your mouth.
- Please view the U.S. Embassy in Beijing's air quality site for daily air pollution updates.
- Crossing the street and riding in a taxi can be a scary experience for first-time visitors.
- Beijing is always in "rush hour traffic." When crossing the street, walk with the crowd and cross the street as quickly as possible.
- Be extremely cautious if you choose to ride a bike and wear a helmet!
- Learn the differences between fake cabs (also known as black cabs) and authentic, government licensed cabs (they have a B on the license plate, have a taxi sign on top of the car, have the driver's credentials in front of the passenger seat, and have meters).
Food and Drink
- The quality of the tap water is not dependable. Only drink bottled water.
- When you buy food or drink, check the expiration date before purchasing.
- Beware of eating street food.
- Expect to bargain in any private shop or street stall. The state-run department stores have fixed prices.
Theft and Pickpockets
- Pickpockets: Pay special attention to your belongings when traveling in crowded buses, trains, or subways.
- Don't ever leave your handbags, luggage, laptop, backpack, or any personal item unattended in any arena.
- Be careful when buying items from street vendors. If possible, use the exact amount of money needed, or use small bills to pay. You want to avoid vendors giving you fake Yuan/RMB for change.
- If approached by beggars, try not to give them money. Once you do, you will be swarmed by dozens more and you may leave yourself open to theft.
Hygiene and Toilet Facilities
- When you arrive in Beijing you will find that people have different views on personal hygiene and common courtesies.
- Always carry hand sanitizer with you and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Smoking and spitting in public places is widespread.
- Toilets in China are normally the "squatting" type.
- You will need to carry toilet paper or tissues and hand sanitizer with you wherever you go.
Beijing's ever present smog.
Beijing traffic: cars, buses, taxis, trucks and bikes.
Students with Disabilities or Special Needs
Students who wish to participate in an Emerson external program or activity must be physically and mentally able, with or without reasonable accommodations, to fully and safely participate in the program or activity. Students who suffer from a physical or mental disability and wish to request accommodations that might enable them to fully and safely participate should contact Emerson College's Disability Services Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students with a documented disability or special need should discuss any anticipated accommodations well in advance of their semester with the International Study and External Programs Office and the Disability Services Office. Your documentation and diagnosis must support your requests for special arrangements or accommodations.
Please be aware that not all disabilities can readily be accommodated abroad and that the laws are different in other countries. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not extend beyond the boundaries of the United States.